Tanzanian lawmakers pass disputed petroleum bill

An oil platform is seen in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania's parliament on Sunday approved a legal and regulatory framework for developing its nascent hydrocarbons industry, after days of contentious debate.

East Africa has become a new oil and gas frontier after a string of discoveries that producers hope to exploit to supply energy-hungry Asian markets.

Tanzania estimates it has more than 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas but has yet to make oil discoveries.

Under the terms of the bill, energy companies will pay a 12.5 percent royalty for oil and gas production in onshore or shelf areas and 7.5 percent for offshore output

The state's share of profit on natural gas production would range from a minimum of 60 to 85 percent, pegged on specific daily gas output.

Members of parliament, mainly from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the 2015 Petroleum Bill after the speaker suspended more than 40 opposition lawmakers for shouting in an earlier debate. The bill's opponents said industry players and non governmental organisations should be given more time to scrutinise it.

A copy of the draft legislation seen by Reuters sets out royalties and other payments that energy companies will have to pay to the government.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on Monday on two other related bills - the Oil and Gas Revenue Management and the Tanzania Extractive Industries (Transparency and Accountability) bills.